East York community appears split over modular housing in their neighbourhood

Woodbine Heights residents are being invited to discuss the proposed erection of modular housing for the homeless in their East York neighbourhood.

But, judging by the response online already, some locals are set to oppose the plan.

Mayor John Tory announced on Tuesday the city-owned lot at Trenton and Cedarvale avenues would be one two sites chosen for the second phase of the city’s modular housing initiative. The 64-unit building would provide stable, affordable housing and offer support services for individuals experiencing homelessness, he said.

“Modular housing has enabled us to act quickly by building new homes in months, not years, while leveraging under-utilized properties that the city already owns,” Tory said. He called the building of the housing with support from provincial and federal levels “critical to supporting the health and well-being of our city and its residents.”

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This is the second east-end site selected for modular housing. In the first phase of the housing initiative, a building was recently opened on Macey Avenue just west of Danforth and Victoria Park avenues in southwest Scarborough, as well as Dovercourt Road in the Trinity-Bellwoods community.

The second site announced in this phase of the plan is on Cummer Avenue in North York. A third site is to be chosen by spring.

But it’s the East York site that has drawn the most opposition so far.

“I am devastated that this is planned for next to my house,” reads one post on a community Facebook page. “Our little kids go to school here and the red X is where 64-plus formerly homeless people will be living.”

Another resident said on the site, “This isn’t for families, it’s bachelors for people that are hard to house, not family units! I’m on the fence, I’m worried about safety for elderly women and kids!”

One representative who supports the project is MPP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith.

“With this new investment in affordable housing, safer and more stable homes are on their way to Beaches-East York,” he said when the announcement was made. “We look forward to continuing to partner with the City of Toronto in making sure every resident has a roof above their head and access to the supports that they need.”

It is also backed by Beaches-East York councillor Brad Bradford.

“Modular housing will help provide a fast response to homelessness, relieving the burden on our shelter system and supporting our most vulnerable residents,” he said. “By also providing the supports needed to succeed, our community members and neighbours can start new chapters in their lives.”

Some of the opposition appears to be based on the location of the proposed building. Currently the site is being used as a parking lot by people attending nearby facilities, including a child care centre, community centre, swimming pool, baseball fields and arena.

East York site of modular housing
FUTURE SITE: The parking lot across from a swimming pool, clubhouse and other community facilities is to be used by the modular housing initiative.

One social media writer said they support housing for the homeless but is concerned about losing existing uses of the property.

“This will mean less parking for seniors, parents and children who in normal times would use the parking lot while attending community programs and events,” according to the post. “Has there been any thought of how to accommodate the need for parking for community events? Looks like one department of city planning is not talking to others.”

But others argue online the inconvenience would be worth it.

“I understand there are some concerns about losing the actual parking space given the bustle around Stan Wadlow but overall I think the benefits really outweigh the drawbacks,” one writer said. “This city is in desperate need of more affordable housing for the most vulnerable amongst us and I think this is a great use of space.”

Pro, con or undecided, residents are to learn more about the two projects and give input into the design elements at virtual community meetings beginning the week of March 8.

Details about taking part in sessions are being mailed to local residents and are also available on the modular housing initiative’s website.

However, city council has the phase two plan on agendas to be considered by its planning and housing committee on March 2 and by council on March 10.

The capital costs for the second phase of building modular homes have been estimated to total $26.6 million, with the city’s reserve fund putting in $16.1 million and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation contributing $10.5 million in grants and recoverable loans. About $3.1 million in annual operating funding has been requested from the province for health-related services and housing subsidies for the two sites proposed so far.